Monday, June 17, 2019

And We're Off...Goin' Up A Yonder

Monday, June 17, 2019 

You could feel the  excitement in the air as our youth gathered in the morning to sign in for tour and receive their identifying luggage ribbons. Another year of Summer Mission Tour has started! This year we have about a dozen new youth attending tour for the first time, as well as a few first-time parent chaperones. We are so happy to have them join us! They are in for a treat. Everyone gathered in the sanctuary as Pastor B. gave us a send off prayer, and once we were on the bus Pastor Kathryn embarked to also give us an additional prayer. We appreciated the double blessing! 

Our bus driver this year is Mr. Rocky, but there is nothing rocky about his driving. He is an awesome driver and realizes that we have precious cargo on boardFollowing us in a minivan as Steve Kalnoske, Torie Brooks and Sydny Fennington. They carried the music folders and other needed supplies. It’s so nice to have some of our college student alumni returning to join tour once againDriving our BRAND NEW church van was Jonathan Colbornaccompanied by our first-time tour parent, Karalee Turner- Little. (Did you know that our new church van was purchased by our own Pleasant Plains Preschool? Be sure to thank Cora Horst when you see her!The van was carrying all of our sleeping bags, sheets and towels that will be used for our college dorm sleepovers. As we took off, Tom Baldridge welcomed everyone and explained some of our tour traditions, in particular the one about choosing two greeters every time we get on the bus. As Tom proceeded to “spin the wheel” to randomly choose our first greeters, the “wheel” rested on Katie Elliott and Reid Taylor! Coincidentally, Reid had a birthday yesterday and Katie's birthday is today. They have both turned 16 years old!  How did they get so old? As tradition dictates, the Greeters have to give each other a welcoming hug and then go through the entire bus welcoming every person that is present. Trust me, if you didn’t know everyone at the beginning of tour, you will definitely know them by the end! 
After the greeting, the Sunshine Committee presented two awards – one to bass, Scott Hembrough,  and one to tenorBen Fritzfor being the only two boys who had all of their complete set of music in their music foldersGood organization guys! 

The rest of the morning gave witness to some beautiful scenery of the rolling hills of Allegheny County, but I’m not sure the youth even noticed. All I could hear was the sound of happy chatting, munching on bag lunches or the sound of movies and videos being played on cell phones. After passing into West Virginia, we enjoyed a brief respite at a rest stop. Of course, that meant that we needed to choose two new Greeters when we got back on the bus. This time the wheel rested on Helena Colborn and Cole Vlasic, who did an excellent job greeting everyone! 

As we approached WVA Wesleyan College, Tom entertained us with stories of his time on campus as a college student. Did you know that Tom and Polly were both students there and met while singing at choir camp? Tom graduated in ’93 and Polly graduated in ’94.  Love was blooming in the hills of West Virginia! Sigh! The college is located in the town of Buckhannon. Tom said it used to be ironically nicknamed “Sunny Buck,” because the clouds would become trapped between the mountains, causing it to be cloudy most of the time. The college itself was founded in 1890. It is named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. We will be sleeping tonight in Tom's freshman dorm, Doney Hall. It's a great opportunity for the high school kids to get a little taste off what is like to sleep in a college dorm, since it will likely be a part of their upcoming future. 

The first business of the evening, after putting our belongings in our dorm rooms for the night, was to head to the cafeteria for dinner. We had a variety of foods to choose from, such as pizza, fried chicken, tofu and vegetables, ratatouille, salad bar, fruit and ice cream. The school colors were represented with an orange iced cake and chocolate brownies. 

After dinner, there was just enough time to change into our concert clothes and load back on the bus. We headed to our concert venue, St. Matthews UMC in Weston. Our evening Greeters were Sam Johnson and Ali Shipe, looking very spiffy in their formal concert clothes. Arriving at the church, we rushed inside to do a quick warm up before people starting coming in. There was a nice sized crowd, including Tom’s parents. The crowwas mesmerized and our kids were on fire(Some of them literally because the church was so hot.) But the singing was awesome and they received a standing ovation! Trust me, the people were so impressed with our youth and I was so proud of them, sharing a spiritual glory with their songs. The presence of God was with us in that room.  Tom reminded them on the way home to really listen to the words they sing and to let it enter their soul and become a part of them. I’m sure before the week is out they will feel it.  

Our final Greeters for the evening were Isaac Turner-Little and Joseph Worrell, who joined our group late in the afternoon. Better late than never and we are glad that he is here! 

Back at the dorm rooms, the kids were happy to have some free time. Some of them went to the  gym for a raucous basketball shoot-off, others were playing pool in the lobby area and some just wanted to chill in their rooms. The evening ended with a rousing birthday song and birthday cake for Katie, accompanied by a card signed by everyone and a portable battery operated hand-held fan. The only problem was the lack of matches. Liz Elliott searched everywhere for some, to no avail. We suggested hitting two rocks together to make a spark, but the city girl in her said no! She ended up cutting the cake without lit candles. It was delicious anyway. 

As our curfew approaches and we head to our rooms, we are tired but thankful for a wonderful day. Yes, all of us are thankful to have this opportunity every year to travel with friends, sing to the Lord and share his goodness with others. Thank you Tom and Polly and parent chaperones for making it happen. We are blessed. 

~ Sue


  1. Chris was in Doney Hall one year.

  2. Sounds like day one of tour was great! Praying that today will be great too!

  3. Thanks for the wonderful summary!

  4. Thanks for all the updates and photos!